Woman's voice heard, then silence, in deadly slip

LAURA BASHAM, SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 20:34 16/06/2013

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A 63-year-old woman was heard calling out before being pulled dead from a massive slip that demolished her house near Marahau in Tasman district.

The 200m slip followed heavy rain. 

The woman's body was found partially submerged in mud at her Kaiteriteri-Sandy Bay Rd home after emergency services were called about 1.15pm, Nelson police Senior Sergeant Stu Koefoed said.

Motueka volunteer fire brigade chief fire officer Mike Riddell said members of a rural fire crew had reported hearing a woman’s voice. ‘‘But it went silent pretty quickly.’’

The victim was pulled from the wreckage of her home, but she could not be revived.

The house had been knocked off its foundations and ‘‘demolished’’ as it was pushed down the hill, he said.

One wall and the roof was all that remained of the house and neighbours had been attempting to find the woman, who was the sole occupant of the house.

After 18 hours of rain, Koefoed said a landslide about 200 metres long had come down behind the property and hit the rear of the house.

Two neighbouring properties have been evacuated as a precaution.

Koefoed said the woman's name was expected to be released tomorrow after her family had been told.

Persistent heavy rain is causing increasing problems in Tasman district with slips and road closures.

Several motorists were stranded for two hours between slips on West Bank Rd in the Motueka Valley this afternoon.

Early this afternoon several large pine trees that had slid off a hillside above 555 Wes Bank Rd blocked both lanes of the road and soon after, a hillside slipped near 150 West Bank Rd, stranding several vehicles in the 4km section. Dozens of houses are now isolated including those on Peach Island.

Rory Crowther had been trying to get up the valley from Motueka but had been turned back by a road block at the northern end of the Motueka Valley Highway, on the east side of the river.

He returned to Motueka and drove up West Bank Rd, only to be turned back at the slip at 555 West Bank Rd. By the time he got to 150 West Bank Rd, a large slip blocked the road there too. He was stuck for about two hours until a digger cleared the slip.

With another 70mm of rain forecast for the 12 hours from 2pm Sunday, residents, the Tasman District Council and Civil Defence are keeping a close eye on the possibility of the Motueka River and its tributaries on the west side, such as Shaggery Creek and Rocky River, flooding homes.

Salmon farm devastated

The owners of Golden Bay tourist attraction Anatoki Salmon are fighting to salvage the remnants of their freshwater salmon farm after a large landslide wiped out the main farm this afternoon.

Gerda and Jan Dissel were in shock at the state of the property on McCallum Rd beside the Anatoki River, after the landslide obliterated the main part of the farm which contained between 50,000 and 70,000 adult and young salmon.

Mr Dissel was struggling to save between 60,000 and 80,000 salmon eggs and salmon fry in the hatchery, after their vital water supply had been cut off by the landslide.

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They predicted the damage had wiped out all the stock for the next two years.

‘‘We have worked so hard for eight years, and now it’s all gone,’’ a shocked Mrs Dissel said.

Speaking from the site, Nelson Mail reporter Charlotte Squire said the freshwater stream that supplied the farm had been blocked by the landslide, which had then covered the farm. A Solly’s earthmoving machine had arrived at the property to begin moving some of the earth which had built up a dam.

She said the property appeared to be still vulnerable to further slips.

‘‘There is so much mud, silt and trees everywhere. It looks as bad as the December 2011 floods.’’

She said members of the community had rallied to help. The Dissels had insurance for the property and infrastructure, but not the fish which could not be insured.

The salmon farm on the Anatoki River began in 1998 as Golden Bay Salmon Fishing and began trading as Anatoki Salmon Farm in July 2001.

The Dissels bought it in 2005, and have grown the business into a ‘‘tourist hotspot’’, where visitors catch their own freshwater salmon.

Roads affected

The Takaka Hill Rd on State Highway 60 has reopened. Access to Marahau via Kaiteriteri is now possible but with care and only advised if necessary.

Civil Defence and Council staff are closely monitoring the current situation with contractors working throughout the affected areas.

"If people feel they are at risk they should call 111 in the first instance."

In the 22 hours from 8am Sunday to 6am Monday expect a further 80 to 130mm in addition to what has already fallen.

During this time a further 80-130mm is also expected for the lowlands of Tasman Bay, including Nelson city, and for the Richmond ranges. Rainfall intensities of 20 to 30mm per hour are likely in the western ranges.

The heaviest falls this afternoon and evening may reach 20mm an hour.

Motueka township was ok but there was flooding and slips at Riwaka and up the Motueka valley, Constable Steve Lamont said.

In Riwaka the tennis courts were completely under water and roads were flooded and a slip has blocked both lanes at Kayak Corner on West Bank Rd.

The persistent rain is also swamping roads in Golden Bay.

Tasman district councillor Martine Bouillir said she had a nerve-racking drive that nearly had swept her 4WD vehicle off the highway at the sawmill corner on the Puramahoi Straight.

"Our vehicle was buffeted and it was hard to keep on the road, smaller cars would not be able to go through."

She believed it would worsen as the rain continued. "I would not be on the roads unless absolutely necessary," she said.

The deluge that has led to the slips and the fatality in the Tasman district is expected to ease after 10pm tonight.

Tasman District Council spokesman Chris Choat said more rain was expected from 6pm and was forecast to continue until 10pm when it was ease.

No formal civil defence emergency has been declared but council and emergency staff are continuing to monitor the situation.

The fatality near Marahau was a tragedy, and police were handling that, he said.

Roads that remain closed are: the Marahau Hill, Motueka West Bank Rd, Motueka Valley Highway, Swamp Rd in Riwaka, Brookland Valley Rd, Abel Tasman Drive in Golden Bay at Wainu, Waikoropupu (Pupu) Valley Rd, McCallum Rd, Cobb Valley Rd, One Spec Rd.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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